The War Inside the IBEW


Chicago IBEW official opposes plan by international for new class of workers
Katie Drews |

Members of one of Chicago’s largest trade unions have begun to mobilize against their own international union over a proposal that, they believe, will swell the workforce with “unskilled” workers.

As previously reported by, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers plans to add a new grade of employees in between apprentices and journeymen. Known as construction wiremen or construction electricians, these workers would not be required to complete the union’s standard training program and, as a result, would earn less pay than certified journeymen. The goal is to lower the overall cost of labor so that IBEW can remain competitive in the markets that are currently dominated by non-union labor.

Rank-and-file electricians in Chicago, however, recently started circulating an online petition that opposes the new classification.

“We are supposed to be the best-trained electrical workforce in the country and now you are contradicting that by bringing in people that have no training whatsoever,” said Ed Johnson, a member of Local 134.

Roughly 250 card-holding electricians signed the petition within the first 10 days it was created. Many workers, though, are weary of signing for fear of retribution. Even still, one Local 134 member who wished to remain anonymous said they hope to get 500 signatures by the next union meeting, where they will then ask for the signature of Tim Foley, business manager of Local 134.

Foley, in a statement he prepared for, also appears to oppose the plan, which has been mandated by the international on every local in the country.

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  1. It does just that plus more it also drops the local pension plans worth and will hurt the trained electrician and weekin the collective bargaining agreement therefor lowering wages

  2. we started that program here in local 613 it took our insurance into the craper and the workers they bring in have no idea how we work or the way we work all it did was put alot of JWs out of jobs


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